Michelson, Bruce 1948–
Michelson, Bruce 1948–
(Bruce F. Michelson, Bruce Frederick Michelson, Bruce N. Michelson)
Born October 19, 1948, in Baltimore, MD; son of Leonard (a business executive) and June (a teacher) Michelson; married Theresa Helen Smith (a teacher and librarian), August 25, 1973; children: Hope, Sarah. Education: Williams College, B.A., 1970; University of Washington, Seattle, M.A., 1973, Ph.D., 1976. Politics: "Undefinable." Religion: "Nonpracticing Unitarian-Universalist." Hobbies and other interests: Distance running, cycling, "being a father."
Home—Urbana, IL. Office—Honors House 1205 W. Oregon St., University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61820; fax: 217-333-2563. E-mail—[email protected]
Educator, writer, and editor. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, assistant professor, 1976-82, associate professor, 1982-95, professor of English, 1995—, director of Campus Honors Program, 1996—. Fulbright lecturer in Belgium, 1983-84.
Modern Language Association of America, American Literature Association, Mark Twain Circle, American Studies Association, Mid-America American Studies Association (executive board), Fulbright Association, Mark Twain Circle of America.
Prokasy Award for distinguished teaching; citation for "outstanding academic book of 1995," Choice, for Mark Twain on the Loose; LAS Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising, University of Illinois; Fulbright Senior Scholar; Robert Schneider Award for Teaching and Service to the Department of English, University of Illinois; Hewlett Award.
Wilbur's Poetry: Music in a Scattering Time, University of Massachusetts Press (Amherst, MA), 1991.
Mark Twain on the Loose: A Comic Writer and the American Self, University of Massachusetts Press (Amherst, MA), 1995.
Literary Wit, University of Massachusetts Press (Amherst, MA), 2000.
Printer's Devil: Mark Twain and the American Publishing Revolution, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2006.
Also coauthor with Marjorie Pryse of Teaching with the Norton Anthology of American Literature, 1998, 2004; editor of An Online Companion to the Norton Anthology of American Literature, 5th edition. Contributor to books, including A Guide to Mark Twain, edited by Louis J. Budd and Peter Massent Blackwell, 2006; contributor to scholarly journals.
Bruce Michelson once told CA: "I am another mid-career English professor who believes too much in teaching and perhaps too little in what passes for research in certain humanities subdisciplines. Saying important, complex things in plain language, about literature and culture, is a purpose that runs through things I have written so far: one book and a stack of articles."
Michelson has a special academic interest in American humor and the writings of Mark Twain. However, in his first book, Wilbur's Poetry: Music in a Scattering Time, the author examines the work of the American poet Richard Wilbur, a former U.S. poet laureate. "Michelson's thesis is that Wilbur is a more complex and various poet than is often allowed among reviewers and critics," wrote J.M. Reibetanz in the Journal of English and Germanic Philology. Reibetanz also noted: "This is a splendid book, with many rewards for the reader."
In Mark Twain on the Loose: A Comic Writer and the American Self, the author explores not only Twain's comic writings but also the author as a public personal- ity and the myth that grew around him. "Emphasizing his disruptive humor, which subverts seriousness, challenges social assumptions, and ignores cultural definitions, Michelson argues that Twain's work from beginning to end underscores his faith in a loose and anarchic self," noted Jason G. Horn in Studies in American Fiction. In paying special attention to the vital role that the outrageous and anarchic aspects of Twain's personality played in his fiction, the author examines a wide range of Twain's writings, including such classic novels as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and later writings such as Tom Sawyer Abroad, Tom Sawyer's Conspiracy, and Huck and Tom among the Indians. Gary Scharnhorst, writing in Studies in the Novel, noted that the author "offers a fresh critical perspective on Twain's writings, one that emphasizes their maniacal, heretical, and outrageous comedy, their irrepressible and sometimes irrational "war against convention.'" Pascal Covici, Jr., wrote in the Journal of English and Germanic Philology that the author "maintains a useful Aristotelian balance in his book on what Twain's humor does, on what Twain does with humor," adding later in the same review: "This is not to say that Professor Michelson takes no chances, goes out on no limbs. Indeed, the whole book is one great extended limb on which our brave critic perches, at times with great precariousness."
Literary Wit examines its subject as a distinct means of discourse that is different from all other discourse, including wit and humor in a nonliterary context. Michelson delves into the role that wit has in transforming the meaning and impact of fiction, plays, and poetry, examining such diverse writings as Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar, Oscar Wilde's "Preface" to his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia. Ulrich Baer, writing in the Library Journal, noted that the author "hopes to give a boost to wit as a way of seeing things newly."
In his 2006 book, Printer's Devil: Mark Twain and the American Publishing Revolution, the author examines Mark Twain in relation to nineteenth-century publishing and the technological advances made in book production. Twain was trained as a printer when he was a boy and remained fascinated by the advancing automation of printing as he grew older. In many of his best-known literary works and other writings, Twain wrote about how this revolution would affect American culture and identity. Michelson explores these themes in Twain's writings and, in the process, provides an overview of the changing printing process during Twain's lifetime.
In a review of Printer's Devil on the Mark Twain Forum Web site, Michael J. Kiskis noted: "Michelson's bracing look at Clemens and Mark Twain and the way each was shaped by vertiginous changes in the publishing industry offers new insight into Samuel Clemens and the symbiotic relationship between the printer's devil who became one of America's more influential authors and the technology that entranced, bewitched, and ultimately ruined and then resurrected him."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Literature, June, 1992, Mary Slowik, review of Wilbur's Poetry: Music in a Scattering Time, p. 410; March, 1996, Louis J. Budd, review of Mark Twain on the Loose: A Comic Writer and the American Self, p. 244.
ANQ, April-July, 1993, Kevin Stein, review of Wilbur's Poetry, p. 153.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, March, 1992, T. Travisano, review of Wilbur's Poetry, p. 1078; December, 1995, review of Wilbur's Poetry, p. 618; July 1, 2001, D.E. Sloane, review of Literary Wit, p. 1961; July, 2007, D.E. Sloane, review of Printer's Devil: Mark Twain and the American Publishing Revolution, p. 1914.
College Literature, spring, 1998, Earl F. Briden, review of Mark Twain on the Loose, p. 154.
Journal of English and Germanic Philology, October, 1993, J.M. Reibetanz, review of Wilbur's Poetry, p. 591; January, 1997, Pascal Covici, review of Mark Twain on the Loose, p. 148.
Library Journal, April 15, 1991, Jeffrey R. Luttrell, review of Wilbur's Poetry, p. 94; January 1, 2001, Ulrich Baer, review of Literary Wit, p. 108.
Modern Language Review, July, 1993, Stephen Matterson, review of Wilbur's Poetry, p. 744.
New England Quarterly, September, 1993, Lorrie Goldensohn, review of Wilbur's Poetry, p. 480; September, 1995, Guy Cardwell, review of Mark Twain on the Loose, p. 500.
Nineteenth-Century Literature, September, 1996, Gregg Camfield, review of Mark Twain on the Loose, p. 263.
Reference & Research Book News, May, 2001, review of Literary Wit, p. 230.
Studies in American Fiction, autumn, 1996, Jason G. Horn, review of Mark Twain on the Loose, p. 242.
Studies in American Humor, annual, 2001, Ann Ryan, review of Literary Wit, p. 85.
Studies in the Novel, spring, 1997, Gary Scharnhorst, review of Mark Twain on the Loose, p. 128.
Campus Honors Program, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Web site,http://www.honors.uiuc.edu/ (November 15, 2007), faculty profile of author.
Mark Twain Forum,http://twainweb.net/ (December 26, 2006), Michael J. Kiskis, review of Printer's Devil.